CHICAGO – Concussion diagnoses among teenagers have skyrocketed as expansive news media coverage* of football-related concussions and state legislation aimed at preventing participants of youth sports from “shaking off” signs of head injuries have drawn attention to the dangers of head injuries, according to a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). Concussion diagnoses among adults also rose significantly over the past six years.
The report, “The Steep Rise in Concussion Diagnoses in the U.S.,” represents a comprehensive study of medical claims for 936,630 diagnosed concussions suffered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) commercially-insured members from 2010 through 2015.
The study finds that:
- Concussion diagnoses spiked 71 percent for patients ages 10 through 19 during the six-year study period. Concussion diagnoses for adults ages 20 through 64 increased 26 percent.
- Fall is the peak concussion season for patients ages 10 through 19 with the most dramatic increases seen among males. Concussion diagnoses for young males in fall are nearly double that of young females.
- The growth of diagnosis rates for young females increased 118 percent compared to an increase for young males of 48 percent during the study period. Young males are still being diagnosed with 49 percent more concussions than young females.
- BCBS data in 2015 show that patients ages 10 through 19 in some states have nearly a three times higher rate of concussions diagnosed than in other states. The Northeast experienced higher rates of concussion diagnoses than other regions overall. Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts had the highest rates of concussion diagnoses for patients ages 10 through 19.
The report also shows that the percentage of concussion patients across all ages diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome nearly doubled between 2010 and 2015. Throughout the study, post-concussion syndrome was diagnosed equally for both males and females ages 10 through 19. Females ages 20 through 64, however, are nearly 60 percent more likely to receive such a diagnosis than males.
“The study shows that there is more awareness about the seriousness of concussions and that younger individuals are receiving more care for these injuries than in the past,” said Dr. Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA. “But despite greater awareness and new protocols aimed at protecting young athletes, there is still wide variability in the rate of concussions diagnosed from state to state.”
In May 2009, the state of Washington approved the Zackery Lystedt Law, named after a young football player who was disabled after he sustained a concussion and prematurely returned to a game. The law requires medical clearance of youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion before sending them back in the game, practice or training. Within five years of the law’s passage, all 50 states and the District of Columbia adopted much of its core principals, which were backed and promoted by the National Football League (NFL).
“National and local organizations representing youth sports as well as health care professionals have been effective at generating awareness about the need to diagnose and treat concussions,” said Maureen Sullivan, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for BCBSA. “The intent of this report is to document concussion rates and increase awareness that could help inform policy and concussion treatment practices for school districts and medical professionals throughout the country.”
“The American Association of Neurological Surgeons applauds the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association for examining the increase of concussions in young patients,” said Dr. Frederick A. Boop, MD, a pediatric neurosurgeon from Memphis, Tenn., and current president of the AANS. “The BCBS study demonstrates the importance of getting evaluated by a qualified professional who can accurately diagnose concussions and determine when it is safe for kids to return to play."
This is the ninth study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report series, a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into health care affordability and access to care.
* Greater awareness is also demonstrated when using Google Trends to measure the number of people in the U.S. who searched for, and the amount of news coverage that included the word “concussion,” which increased between 2010 and 2015. The term also is used more on the internet during fall.
Health Intelligence Company is the nation’s premier health intelligence resource, delivering data-driven insights about healthcare trends and best practices, resulting in healthier lives and more affordable access to safe and effective care. HIC accesses healthcare claims data from more than 140 million individuals nationwide, collected over nine years, in a safe, HIPAA compliant and secure database. The resulting conformed, reliable data set has the broadest, deepest pool of integrated medical and pharmacy claims, reflecting medical utilization in every ZIP code. Health Intelligence Company, LLC operates under the trade name Blue Health Intelligence (BHI) and is an Independent Licensee of BCBSA. For more information, visit http://www.bluehealthintelligence.com/.